Getting started with timelapse – Part I of III

18 Jul 2013




What an exciting time that we live in! Or rather, that we get to be photographers in! The ever-developing-non-stop-technology-driven-world is surely making life for any artist as exciting as it can get and it’s certainly no different for photographers. Let’s not debate about the good-old film days here but rather embrace creativity and technology where it’s at.


timelapse_03 timelapse_04 timelapse_05 timelapse_06 A simple timelapse sample


See how the camera moves up the dolly while shooting

This technology turmoil brings timelapse photography to everyday photographers like you and me. You don’t need to have a big fat production company to be able to have fun with techniques such as this anymore. Thanks to digital cameras and affordable motion controlled dollies we can all experiment and perhaps specialize in a “new” genre of photography.

So what’s the fuss about timelapse? What exactly is timelapse photography and why does everyone want a dolly? Can’t you just shoot a video and speed it up?

Well, yes and no. Timelapse is very common in filming although making use of video cameras will not allow you the same amount of control with regards to exposure settings (while shooting), post processing, quality and a few other technical difficulties which we’re not going to chat about now. We discuss this in more depth on our workshops.

So lets get on with timelapse photography and how to get started in shooting and editing your own sequences.

Timelapse is the photographic technique of taking a sequence of frames at set intervals to record changes that take place slowly over time (take note – slowly!). When the frames are shown at normal speed the action seems much faster then in real life.

It allows you to compress a long period of time into only a few seconds. The most common example of this technique is showing a flower unfolding, clouds passing by and sunsets or sunrises. Milky way and night-sky scenes are now very popular too.

In essence, you speed up life that otherwise go unnoticed in real time. And if you still don’t get it; it’s the total opposite of high-speed photography that allows you to play back 1 second of action slowed down to e.g. 30 seconds. Capish??

To start with timelapse you need a camera, a steady (I repeat steady) tripod and an intervalometer (also referred to as “timelapse recording”). Many cameras have built-in intervalometers such as Nikon, Pentax and Panasonic. Not all models have this function so confirm this for your own camera model. Some cameras can also output your images as a .mov file straight out of the camera. Keep in mind this will lesson your post-processing options and limit your control when editing since you can no longer edit individual images.

For cameras without built-in intervalometers you can buy an additional remote cable which will provide you with the necessary features for timelapse photography. Also see a previous post from Sean Nel on the Triggertrap. Most controllers for motorized timelapse dollies not only controls the speed of the motor but also acts as an intervalometer.

To add linear movements to your timelapse you need a motorized dolly for those ultimate motion shots. By adding motion you separate the foreground from the background which adds depth and authenticity to every sequence. This term is called “parallax shift” and is caused by the moving camera, not by timelapse.

Notice how the camera slowly makes it’s way up the rail.

Now you know a bit more about timelapse photography and the equipment that you need. Next time we will share how you can calculate your intervals and giving you some “assignments” to start shooting.

Read Part II here.


The post Getting started with timelapse – Part I of III appeared first on ODP Magazine.

About the Author:

Photographer at TIMELAPSE SA Timelapse photographer and Shukuma dolly designer / engineer Joe Louw has been in the photography industry since 1999. Starting out as professional wedding photographers, Joe and his wife Jonelle quickly developed a trustworthy reputation offering quality products in the wedding industry. Their intense passion for nature, along with many journeys traveling to our neighboring countries was the driving force behind their decision to venture into other genres of photography. This also led them to take a break from the wedding industry whilst they became qualified field guides working in the hospitality industry. Along with a passion for photography, Joe has an incredible ability to understand almost all technical fields. He learnt about timelapse photography for the first time in late 2010, and it soon became somewhat of an obsession to know as much as possible about this exciting technique. With timelapse photography came dolly sliders and motion controlled timelapse rigs - and that is how the Shukuma dolly was born. Having recently established Timelapse SA, Joe Louw is the first person to produce motorised timelapse dollies in South Africa. His comprehensive knowledge and experience in timelapse photography allow him to deliver outstanding work. His perfectionistic nature and high standards are the key behind the superb quality of the Shukuma dolly which equals, if not excels, other units available internationally. For details visit

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